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An Easy How-To Guide for Riding Your Bike in Wet Conditions

As the seasons change quite frequently in San Francisco, many Bay Area cyclists face an important choice: whether to keep on riding into the rainy, foggy weather, or to hang up the bike for the wet seasons and deal with commuting by car or train until conditions are more dry. The following bike accident advice will help you make the best decision for dealing with frightful weather.

If you’ve never ridden your bike in the rain before (or if your only experience riding in the rain is getting caught unprepared in a surprise storm), then you might think it’s impossible to ride your bike in wet weather without showing up at your destination with frizzy hair and drenched pants.

However, with a little preparation, you can actually continue riding your bike all year round from San Francisco to Oakland to Palo Alto — all while keeping yourself warm and dry. Biking in the rain can actually be an empowering experience, as you learn how to overcome the elements and stay on safe riding your bike whenever you want.

Here is the essential bike accident advice that you need in order to bike safely and happily through the wet weather in the Bay Area this fall.


Wet weather cycling clothes you need

Riding your bike in the rain means your whole body is exposed to the elements for the duration of your ride. Even though it doesn’t often get colder than 45 degrees in the Bay Area, getting soaking wet can still chill your whole body in no time at all. And not only is having wet clothes annoying, but it can also increase your risk of getting sick and can make your ride less safe by impairing your ability to maneuver and stay on your bike.

That’s why it’s so important to get properly outfitted with gear that will keep you safe and dry for your whole ride. Here are some basic essentials:

A rain cape. Okay, draping a big sheet of waterproof cloth over your whole body might feel a little silly at first, but you won’t mind it when you’re arriving at your destination with completely dry clothes — even feet. A rain cape drapes fully over your body when you’re bent over your bike during a ride, keeping your legs and feet dry under the umbrella-like shape of the cape.

Synthetic or wool layers. When it’s cold and rainy outside, riding your bike can actually make you extra hot and sweaty if your clothes are too confining. If you’re going on a long ride, or have backup clothes to change into when you get to your destination, it can be nice to layer up for your ride with clothes that will keep you warm without overheating. Avoid cotton and other fabrics that will stick to you; you want clothes that will breathe, so you don’t overheat and sweat.

Warm, waterproof coverage for hands and feet. On a long, wet bike ride, your hands and feet are what will suffer most from feeling cold. If you’re riding a long distance or the rain is heavy, you will want to cover your extremities with warm, waterproof protection like gloves and rain boots. If you don’t want to invest in boots, you can wear warm wool socks and protect your shoes with waterproof shoe covers or gaiters.


Gear you need for riding in the rain

Experienced cyclists know there is a world of gear out there to help you do just about anything on your bike. Luckily, riding in the rain doesn’t require stockpiling mountains of expensive gadgets. All you need is a few things that will keep you — and your valuables — safe, dry, and visible on the road.

A waterproof bag. If you’re riding your bike to and from work, to the gym, or anywhere that you need to bring along any important personal items like spare clothes, a computer, or paperwork, you don’t want to worry about your things getting wet. Rather than trying to tuck your everyday bag underneath your coat — which can result in awkward posture that hurts your back and makes you unstable on your bike — invest in a durable, waterproof bag that you can sling over your shoulder or hang on your bike frame without worry.

A cover for your helmet. To keep your head and hair dry, use a helmet cover that will shield you from the rain. Make sure to get one that leaves your ears uncovered, so that you aren’t cut off from the street sounds around you; you still need to be able to hear traffic, especially in wet conditions where drivers may be more unpredictable.

Headlights, taillights, and reflectors. If you ever ride your bike after dark, you know how important being visible is. In rainy weather, it’s just as important to be seen. In misty, foggy weather, having lights on the front and back of your bike is essential; even better if they blink, to catch the attention of approaching drivers. Reflectors on your bike, helmet, and clothing will also help keep you visible.


Bike accident advice for staying safe in wet weather

Above all else, the most important thing to keep at the front of your mind when biking in the rain is your safety. Drivers and cyclists alike are dealing with challenging conditions when it rains, which means there are even more opportunities for mistakes, confusion, and crashes.

Give your brakes extra time. Rain and fog can make your brakes less effective, since the wet conditions can make it harder for them to make lasting contact to slow you down quickly. Don’t make any sudden stops, if you can help it, and give your brakes a little test squeeze from time to time to see how they are performing as they get more and more wet.

Watch out for slippery road hazards. When the road is wet, everyday occurrences like leaves, utility hole covers, and Muni tracks can become dangers. Follow this important bike accident advice and be careful going around corners or slowing down — changing speed and direction are the times you have the greatest potential to slip on a wet, uneven surface. If you have to cross an uneven surface like Muni track, always do so with your handlebars straight ahead and without braking.

Take a moment to wipe down your bike after your ride. Riding in the rain means a lot of extra dirt, mud, and grit can end up on your bike. Leaving this stuff on your bike can wear away the effectiveness of things like your brakes and chain, so take a just a minute to wipe everything down. It doesn’t have to be spotless, but clearing out the grit from the moving parts on your bike will help them (and you!) keep moving.